Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
Tea history erased



BHIM CHAPAGAIN

Ilam: Nepal's oldest tea factory, in Ilam, is close to ruin due to lack of care. Its crumbling walls and broken windows can be seen from a distance.

Situated near the district headquarters, the building of the Ilam Tea Factory was in use until 2000, but following the purchase of a 50-year lease by Tribeni Shanghai Group, its equipment was removed and entry to the factory was prohibited.

Set up in 1878, the factory is believed to be even older than Biratnagar Jute Mills and Juddha Match Factory. The genesis of tea plantations in Ilam goes back to 1863. The Chinese government had offered then Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana tea saplings, which were planted in Ilam. In the beginning, the plantations were spread over 135 acres of land. "That's how the factory was established," says historian Yuddha Prasad Baidhya.

After Ilam Tea Factory was privatised 10 years ago, its machinery was relocated. "There is nothing left in the factory but we don't know where the equipment was taken to," says a woman who worked in the factory for 28 years.

Loknath Dangal, chief administrator of Tribeni Shanghai Group in Jhapa, confirms that the machinery was relocated to factories in Kanyam.

The government has leased out Kanyam, Tokla, Baradasi, Barne, Chilimkot and Soktim Tea Estates along with Ilam Tea Factory to the private sector. Machinery was auctioned off at a low price.

Despite its state, the factory building has historic value. "This history," says local Bimal Baidhya, "has been erased with the leasing out of the factory."

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LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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